Better Than Burgers

December 26th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Kefte. Kefta. Kofta. Keftedes. Called by many names in the Middle East, Greece and the Maghreb, these are fat, cigar shaped rectangles of ground lamb. They are a favorite street food in many cities, grilled over charcoal and permeating the air with savory fumes. The ground lamb is usually mixed with chopped or grated onion, garlic, mint and a variety of spices. Sometimes a beaten egg is added to bind the mixture (A Greek version adds white bread moistened with milk). BSK and Lesley R. toss in some pignolia nuts for added crunch. The cooking technique is browning the Kefte stove top and finishing in the oven.The result is a nice balance between crisp exterior and lush, juicy, slightly pink interior. Better than burgers. BSK often serves Kefte with Israeli couscous and roasted Japanese eggplant. HG makes a sauce of Greek yogurt and sour cream, much grated garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, zaatar, Aleppo pepper, sumac and smoked Spanish paprika. Rather exuberant. Warm pita with olive oil and zaatar is a nice accompaniment. Lesley R. made a lovely platter of Kefte last night with couscous and eggplant. She added tahini to the the yogurt sauce. Interesting variation. The Eastern European/Jewish version of Kefte is Carnezlach. Beef, not lamb. Heavy on garlic and onion. A staple in the long gone “Romanian broilings” restaurants of New York’s once Jewish working class neighborhood of the Lower East Side. (You can still eat them at schmaltz heaven Sammy’s Romanian on Chrystie Street). Last night’s meal ended with a wonderful surprise. Young college student Raphie, a friend and neighbor, celebrated Gorgeous Granddaughter Sofia’s Christmas homecoming by baking a key lime pie. Served with scoops of Raphie’s lush fresh whipped cream, it was the best dessert HG has had in years. Greedy HG had to be wrestled away from the table.


Fage: The Authentic Greek Yogurt

February 28th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Some years ago, HG was lunching at a restaurant in Chicago’s Greektown. Grilled octopus. A tasty slab of sauteed pickerel with garlicky greens, okra and orzo (the Greek version of Jewish farvel, a small pasta shape also called “egg barley.”). Retsina wine (admittedly, an acquired taste). For dessert, my companions (all of Greek origin) ordered yogurt for dessert. Didn’t sound promising. Sounded like a bad health food restaurant option. It proved to be a revelation. Thick, really thick yogurt, topped with walnuts and fragrant honey. Delicious. Remains one of HG’s favorite desserts. Greek yogurt was hard to find then. HG managed to source some at a Greek delicatessen in Vancouver where it was scooped out of a big tub. Now it has become omnipresent. Even Dannon has a version. But, as far as HG is concerned, only the Fage brand has authentic Greek texture and taste.

In Trader Joe’s spice department you can find a nice melange of spices labeled “Tsatziki Mix.” Add it to plain Fage yogurt. Make some Keftas (Middle Eastern lamb burgers utilizing garlic, cumin, mint and grated onion). Tuck a Kefta into a warmed pita with a dollop of Tsatziki-spiced yogurt and a few slices of raw onion and tomato plus a squirt of Sriracha for heat. The burger from heaven.

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